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Review president’s powers—committee

Parliament’s Natural Resources and Climate Change Committee has asked government to table the Natural Resources (Amendment) Bill in the next meeting of Parliament to review provisions giving the President absolute powers on mining and oil exploration deals.

Committee’s chairperson Werani Chilenga said it was high time the Bill was tabled in the House to revise the outdated laws.

He said: “We want the Bill to be tabled in the coming sitting. What the ministry is doing by delaying the Bill is very bad. Do you want to tell us that you want to bring the Bill after the resources have been plundered?”

Chiwambo: Our laws are outdated

Chilenga said if the Bill will not be tabled the soonest, the country will wake up one day with all its rare resources and minerals depleted.

The committee argues that the proposed amendments will help the country reap the benefits from rare resources and minerals.

The committee also noted that the country was using outdated laws which give ultimate powers to the President on deals involving the sector.

The outdated Acts include the Mining Act of 1981 and the Petroleum Act of 1983.

The Acts give maximum powers to the President for negotiations, leaving the majority with less power to oppose.

In response to the committee’s position during the meeting, Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining chief mining engineer Cassius Chiwambo said government is not clinging to the outdated laws, but mentioned that the ministry is facing challenges to review the document.

He said: “We acknowledge that our laws are outdated and this has impacted a lot on the country. We are not clinging to the old Acts, it is only that there are many problems facing the ministry in reviewing such Acts. Be assured that we are working hard on this and the Bill will be brought to Parliament.”

Chiwambo also acknowledged lack of the Petroleum Policy which despite calls from different quarters of the nation, allows investors to explore oil on Lake Malawi.

He said government cannot stop the potential investors yet, on exploring the lake for oil, because it uses the 1983 Act of Parliament which gives it powers to do so.

He, however, said the investors have been told that the policy is under review, and they will be told about the changes after which they will have to comply accordingly.

The committee noted that the country has been robbed of its precious minerals and people have been left in the dark about other mining deals because of the weakness of the outdated mining laws. n

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